Sita's abduction re-imagined – a Singapore review

On 28 Feb 2020, Singapore music lovers were treated to a retelling of  Adeline Wong’s 2007 piece ‘Empunya Yang beroleh Sita Dewi’ (He who possesses Sita Dewi).

First commissioned by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the time for a half-hour performance by the full orchestra with wayang kulit, Empunya Yang beroleh Sita Dewi added yet another modern commentary into the classic Ramayana.

Wong later reworked the music into a 10-minute long condensation for string orchestra, and this new version was premiered by the  Eastman Camerata at Singapore's Esplanade Recital Studio.

The concert was reviewed by Singapore's long-time arts website, whose writer described the Wong's piece as “impressive”.

“A programmatic work, [the work] traces from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, Sita Dewi’s kidnapping by the ogre king Rawana while she takes a bath in a spring. Seri Rama, her husband, sends Hanuman to fight Rawana and rescue her, but as Wong explained, the ending feels ambiguous, with the feeling that Sita Dewi doesn’t belong to herself.

“Concentrated and full of musical tension, the work, written for divided individual string parts, started off on sustained notes with tailing downward glissandi.

“Longing, uncertainty and unease were evoked, and there was in sections a certain meditative quality, showing off the ensemble’s brilliant tonal quality and Mao Chengyu’s eloquent cello, leading up to its feverish, anguished end,” wrote the reviewer.

The 14-strong string orchestra, comprising “Eastman alumni and friends”, was conducted by Joshua Tan. The concert included Mendelssohn's String Symphony No. 1 in C major, David Diamond's Rounds for String Orchestra, Grieg's 2 Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34 and Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony Op. 110a.

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